A £10m scheme to rebuild part of the Great Yorkshire Showground – to make Harrogate the conference capital of the country – has been unanimously approved.
The ambitious development, to replace the existing Hall 1 with a smarter, larger, state-of-the-art exhibition centre, was put before planners in Harrogate for approval on Tuesday.
It was met with great enthusiasm from council members, who said the scheme would be of huge benefit to the district, putting Harrogate even more firmly on the conference map.
“This is a fantastic development,” said Coun Pat Marsh, (Lib Dem, Hookstone.) “It’s going to bring the economy of this district to an even better level than it is now.
“It’s a win-win situation – and it’s most welcome.”
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS), which owns the Yorkshire Events Centre, submitted the plans to demolish and rebuild one of its two exhibition halls earlier this year.
Hall 1, a key element of the Great Yorkshire Show and used for Countryside Live and the spring and autumn flower shows, was first built in the 1960s.
Designed to last just 20 years, say owners, it is no longer fit for purpose.
The new hall, to be designed by P+HS Architects who created the £3.6m Fodder site, will be 1,000 sqm larger and high enough to accommodate showjumping.
Fronted with a mix of copper, glass and dry-stone walling, it will house a new cafe, toilets, meeting rooms and a reception area for 400 people.
“This will be a building that Harrogate can be proud of,” said Nigel Pulling, chief executive of the YAS. “It’s a competitive market place and we need to keep up.”
Activities at the showground, from the Great Yorkshire Show to conferences and weddings, bring an estimated £47m economic benefit to the Harrogate district every year.
“This is the biggest single investment in the history of the society, since it bought the showground in 1949,” said Heather Parry, YAS deputy chief executive. “Working with the Harrogate International Centre, this really will make Harrogate the top events town for the UK.”
Work will begin on the site after the Great Yorkshire Show next year, 2015, and the society is to invest £5,000 in smart traffic lights outside Sainsbury’s .to deal with any increase in traffic.
A temporary exhibition centre is to built to accommodate visitors while the new hall is built, with work to be completed before the start of the 2016 show.
“It’s taken a year’s worth of work to get to this stage,” said Miss Parry after Tuesday’s planning meeting. “It’s a big investment.
“The Great Yorkshire Show is already the country’s premier agricultural show. This will confirm that we have the premier showground.”